I have written several times before that the best sleeping temperature is lower than the temperature you might like during the day. Now, a new study is confirming that your body simply sleeps better when it’s cooler.
Your body has two temperature areas. The first is your skin temperature, which is regulated by your body but also changes due to external influences. The second area is in your core — the areas in your head, chest, and belly where your primary organs are located. The temperature in your core is regulated by your brain. Variations in temperature in these areas can be harmful or even fatal.
Dutch researchers fitted human subjects with thermosuits that allowed them to regulate the subjects’ skin temperatures without affecting core body temperature. While the subjects slept, the researchers lowered the subjects’ temperatures. The changes were dramatic. The study participants with lowered skin temperatures didn’t wake up as much during the night, and the percentage of their sleep spent in stages 3 and 4 (deep sleep) increased. The effects were most pronounced in the elderly and in people who suffered from insomnia.
The same researchers found that people with narcolepsy tend to have higher skin temperature when asleep and when awake. They speculated that hypocretin (orexin) deficiency in the brains of narcolepics affects skin-temperature regulation. It was also found that increasing the skin temperature can promote sleep.
So, what can you do to duplicate this experiment and try to sleep better? Many people take a warm bath right before bed. Keeping the water in the bathtub below your body temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit will temporarily lower skin temperature, as will the evaporating water as you’re drying off. Additionally, set the thermostat in your home for a temperature between 60 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit.